"Where were you?"
"I was on the street outside, watching you." No point in explaining that he had followed her from the cantina down the street where she had stopped previously. She would only ask other questions that would be even harder to answer.
"Jonas, this doesn't make any sense. Are you trying to tell me that because of a brief glimpse and a broken earring, you tracked me down here in Sequence Springs? You expect me to believe that?"
The washcloth grew cold in Jonas's hand. He looked down at it. He had intended to use the cloth to bathe away the pungent, sticky residue of their lovemaking. He had thought Verity might appreciate the warm bath. He had also wanted to soothe the tender female flesh he had taken with a lot of heat but not much finesse. Something told him Verity would not welcome such intimacy now. He put the cold, damp cloth on the table beside the bed.
"I followed you, Verity, because I had to," he said simply. "I wanted to see you again. After all, I'd saved you from Pedro. Is it so strange I would want to find out more about you? You ran from that alley as if all the demons in hell were at your heels."
"I thought you were just another would-be ra**st."
He watched her profile. "Well, now you know I'm not, don't you?"
She pulled the sheet around herself, withdrawing from him. "I'm not so sure. Maybe you're just more subtle than Pedro."
Anger flared in him. He caught her shoulders and forced her to face him. "That's a hell of a thing to say. You know damned good and well that what just happened between us wasn't rape. Don't you dare accuse me of that. When I left the bed a few minutes ago, you were practically begging me to rush back and make love to you again."
She flinched, her eyes faltering beneath his momentary fury. "You're right," she said grudgingly. "It wasn't rape. But it wasn't love, either. So why are you here, Jonas? Why did you follow me and go to work for me and then take me to bed?"
She would never believe the real story in its entirety. All he could do was stick by the bare bones of the tale. "I told you the truth. I wanted to see you again. If you'd stuck around that alley until I'd finished with Pedro, I would have introduced myself then. But you ran. So I followed."
She edged away from him. "Jonas, don't hand me that kind of line. Men don't do things like that."
He shrugged. "I did."
He watched her chew on that undeniable fact. Then something flickered in her eyes and she astonished him with her next leap of logic. "Does this have anything to do with my father, by any chance? Are you here because of him? Do you work for that sleazeball who's after him to repay the gambling debt? So help me God, Jonas, if you followed me and used me to get at him, I swear I'll slit your throat."
Jonas was startled at her deduction. "No, I don't work for anyone but you. I knew nothing about your father's problems until he told us both about them tonight. That's the truth, Verity. The only reason I came to Sequence Springs was to get to know you better. Can you blame me? I saved you down in Mexico and you didn't even stick around long enough to thank me. A man can weave a lot of fantasies about a woman he rescues. Human nature. Male nature. And there was nothing to keep me in Mexico.
I was free to follow you and learn more about you, so I did just that."
She eyed him warily. "A true drifter. You just go where your fancy takes you, is that it?"
He gritted his back teeth but kept his voice casual. "That's it."
"I'm not sure I believe you, Jonas. You're making me very nervous."
Jonas kept a tight rein on his self-control. "I'm sorry, Verity. I guess my following you out of Mexico doesn't strike you as a romantic gesture, does it? Four hundred years ago someone would have written a ballad about it."
"Times change," she informed him. "Maybe women today are a little more savvy than they were back then."
"Times change," he agreed. "Human nature doesn't. If you'd been born four hundred years ago you would have been the same arrogant, stubborn, infuriating little shrew you are today."
She paled and Jonas instantly flayed himself mentally for his loss of temper. She had been through a lot tonight and she had every right to her suspicions.
"If you feel that way about me, I'm surprised you were so eager to go to bed with me," Verity whispered.
He swore softly and reached out, capturing her before she could slide away. Deliberately he overcame her brief struggles and pinned her close against him, his face in her hair.
"I'm sorry, honey. I didn't mean that. I should have kept my damn mouth shut."
He could smell himself on her, Jonas realized as he pulled her close. The acrid scent combined with the lingering fragrance of her feminine arousal made him pulsatingly conscious of the claim he had staked tonight. He could not yet explain to Verity the mental bond that linked them or why he needed her to preserve his sanity. She wouldn't believe him, let alone understand what he was trying to say. All he could do was reinforce the physical and emotional bonds he had forged tonight. And there were definitely such bonds between them whether she wanted to admit it or not. She would never have gone to bed with him if she hadn't wanted him very badly.
Hell, he told himself encouragingly, the woman had waited twenty-eight years to go to bed with a man.
Surely she must have felt something very powerful for him.
"Jonas, I feel like I've been through a wringer. I don't know what to think." Her voice was muffled against his chest.
He clenched his hands in the wonderful fire of her hair. "I know, honey. I didn't handle this very well.
I should have told you who I was right from the start. But you wouldn't have believed me then, either.
In fact, you probably would have been even more suspicious of me if I'd shown up on your doorstep and announced I'd followed you from Mexico. I didn't know how to play it, so I tried to keep things low-key.
I wanted us to get to know each other. Was that so wrong?"
"No, I suppose not, but I still don't know what to believe. It's all very strange."
"It will look a lot less strange in the morning," he assured her. "I promise. You're just shook up now because you've been through a brand-new experience tonight and you're still coming to terms with it."
The new sexual experience was only part of the package, he thought. Wait until she realized that she hadn't been hallucinating earlier when she'd entered that psychic corridor. But he'd leave that for another time.
"Does it take a lot to come to terms with the experience of going to bed with someone?" she demanded tartly, sounding more like her old self.